The way forward for the Sunday looking ban may hinge on the interpretation of a single phrase.
Attorneys argued Wednesday morning earlier than the Maine Supreme Judicial Courtroom whether or not Maine’s 140-year-old Sunday looking ban is now unconstitutional based mostly on the 2021 right-to-food modification.
The arguments have been the primary public debate over the destiny of Sunday looking, and have been targeted completely on its authorized standing in mild of Maine passing the nation’s first right-to-food modification. A lot of the argument from each side got here all the way down to the interpretation of the phrase “harvest” because it seems within the new modification.
There aren’t any exceptions to Sunday looking and the legislation is “overly broad,” stated Pamela Lee, lawyer for Virginia and Joel Parker, who filed the lawsuit in 2022.
“It’s a broad, sweeping and arbitrary ban with out exceptions or limitations that infringes upon what’s now a Constitutionally protected proper,” Lee stated.
The modification gave Mainers a proper to develop, harvest and produce meals so long as no legal guidelines are damaged and no public or non-public land is abused. The 2 sides debated the interpretation of the phrase “harvest,” because the phrase “looking” doesn’t seem within the modification.
Within the modification, “harvest” is surrounded by phrases referencing agriculture, not looking, Assistant Legal professional Normal Paul Suitter stated. The phrase generally refers to gathering crops, and Mainers have been assured the modification wouldn’t change looking legal guidelines by lawmakers who launched it, he added.
Lee, in the meantime, argued that “harvest” changed a string of phrases, together with fishing, clamming and foraging within the modification, which is designed to embody all of them, together with looking.
Whereas the right-to-food modification established individuals’s rights, they’re nonetheless topic to regulation, Justice Joseph Jabar stated. These laws embrace looking seasons and licensing.
However Lee countered that laws similar to established looking seasons and licenses are usually not unconstitutional as a result of the right-to-food modification forbids poaching, which is used to guard pure assets. A Sunday looking ban, nonetheless, doesn’t shield pure assets the identical means, Jared Bornstein, government director of Maine Hunters United for Sunday Looking, stated after the arguments.
Suitter argued in opposition to Sunday looking by explaining that whereas the poaching exception can be utilized to manage what number of deer could be taken to guard pure assets, it couldn’t be used to create any sort of exception, similar to saying solely individuals between the ages of 25 and 45 can hunt.
Lastly, Suitter argued that wildlife in Maine will not be owned by anybody individual, however is as an alternative owned by the individuals. He stated meaning Maine’s Legislature can replace looking legal guidelines to create any modifications it desires, and has finished so quite a few instances. In Might, the Legislature rejected 4 payments to permit Sunday looking.
Virginia and Joel Parker filed the lawsuit in Kennebec County in April 2022 in opposition to the Division of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, arguing that Sunday looking is authorized due to the brand new modification. The Parkers have 5 kids and depend on looking to assist feed their household, and might solely hunt collectively in the future per week with the present legal guidelines.
Kennebec Superior Courtroom was basically “punting” the case to the supreme courtroom to decide when it was dismissed in November 2022, Justice Andrew Mead stated. The superior courtroom dismissed the case because the lawyer normal’s workplace requested and the Parkers appealed.
The supreme courtroom justices heard the arguments earlier than an auditorium of scholars at Winthrop Excessive College. The justices can resolve the constitutionality of the ban, or they will ship the case again to the superior courtroom to listen to the case.
If there’s a rational foundation for the Sunday looking ban, the Parkers lose their case, Jabar stated. Lee agreed.
A call is anticipated within the subsequent two or three months.